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Drilling ceramics - everything you need to know

Tile drill when drilling ceramics

Drilling ceramics is not rocket science. Tips, techniques and support for the right choice of your tools.

Difficulty: Easy | Costs: from 6 euros | Workload: 10 minutes per borehole

A picture showing the different types of pottery

1. Why do you have to drill ceramics at all?

Ceramic is a popular material for indoor and outdoor tiles such as:

  • terrace slabs
  • wall tiles
  • Large living room tiles
  • bathroom

From time to time it is necessary to drill holes in these tiles, for example to attach a mirror, a shelf or other accessories.

2. What tools and machines are required for drilling ceramics?

Picture of a diamond drill bit on a cordless screwdriver that drills straight ceramic plates with a thickness of 2 cm

The most important thing when drilling ceramics is the right tool.

There are essentially 2 different types of drills that are suitable for ceramics.

  • With HEX hexagon socket

  • With M14 mount

2.1 Machine choice

Pictures of machines (cordless screwdrivers and angle grinders) that are suitable for drilling ceramics

A general drilling tool, such as a drill, angle grinder, or cordless screwdriver, is essential.

The speed of these machines can be regulated, which is an advantage when drilling ceramics. Also, everyone has it in one form or another.

2.2 Diamond burs

Diamond drill bits are ideal for very hard materials such as porcelain stoneware.

The tip of this extraordinary ceramic drill consists of a diamond segment covered with small diamond particles that cleanly remove the material bit by bit.

Good to know: The diamond drill bit for ceramics is slightly more expensive than a carbide drill bit, but has the lowest cost per hole in ceramics.

2.3 Glass Drill

Glass drill bits are also a good choice for ceramic drilling.

They have a special tip that does not splinter the material. They are reasonably good for drilling soft and thin ceramics in an emergency.

2.4 ceramic drills

Ceramic drill bits are specially designed for drilling ceramic and other hard materials.

They also have an optimized carbide tip that "cuts" the material.

This carbide drill is ideal for medium-hard and medium-thick ceramic tiles and slabs.

3. Which drilling tools are required for different ceramics?

types of pottery

Our experience: Not all ceramics are the same.

There are different types of ceramics, each with their own specific properties.

They differ by:

  • thickness
  • composition
  • Size
  • Hardness according to MOHS table

3.1 ceramic tiles

Tile is a common type of ceramic that we find in the kitchen and bathroom.

They are available in different degrees of hardness, from soft to very hard.

3.2 Earthenware

Stone pottery in the overview

Earthenware is another type of ceramic that is slightly softer than tile. It's easier to drill, but care must be taken to avoid cracking and breaking.

Stoneware can be drilled with a 4-head carbide bur or a diamond bur.

3.3 Porcelain stoneware

Porcelain stoneware is one of the hardest types of ceramics. It requires a diamond bur for ceramics and special drilling techniques.

Advice on porcelain stoneware:

3.4 Glazed pottery

A picture of glazed ceramic tiles

Glaze is a type of surface coating that is applied to the pottery. It can make drilling difficult as it makes the surface harder and more slippery.

Our tip: Glazed ceramic can produce unsightly chips when drilling. You should therefore drill these with great caution.

4. Drilling the right ceramic - a guide

Drilling ceramics in practice with a drill and a diamond drill bit

Drilling ceramic requires a little more preparation than drilling softer materials like wood or plasterboard.

4.1 Do I have to pre-drill the ceramic tile?

The picture shows a craftsman drilling ceramics

Before drilling a hole in ceramic, it is often helpful to drill a small "guide".

This can help reduce the risk of cracks and breakage.

Our experience: stick a piece of tape on the drill hole to prevent slipping.

4.2 Determine hole size and diameter

A picture with different ceramic drill sizes

When drilling in ceramic, it is important to select the correct hole size or the correct diameter of the ceramic drill .

Too large a hole can weaken the material and prevent you from attaching your item (mirror), while too small a hole may not be enough to attach your desired accessory.

4.3 Set the speed correctly

The RPM of the drill bit can have a big impact on the outcome of the hole.

Too high a speed can cause overheating and damage to the bit, while too low a speed can make drilling difficult.

5. Problems and Solutions

Picture of a broken ceramic tile caused by too much pressure when drilling ceramic

Various problems can arise when drilling ceramics.

Here are the most common problems we think arise and how to prevent or solve them.

5.1 How do I avoid damage when drilling ceramics?

When drilling ceramic, it is important to avoid damaging the material.

Our experience: When drilling tiles, most accidents happen because you don't prepare properly. Please always remember that 5 minutes of preparation means less work than replacing a broken ceramic tile.

This can be done by:

  • careful drilling
  • Using the right tools
  • and techniques and protection of the surface can be achieved.

5.2 Cracks

Cracks can occur when drilling ceramics, especially if the material is very hard or if the drill is drilled too fast or with too much pressure.

This can easily be prevented by using it slowly, carefully and using only the machine's own weight.

Expert tip: The diamond bur for ceramics has the lowest probability of creating a crack of all burs. It does not drill through the material like classic drills, but grinds it down cleanly, efficiently and piece by piece.

5.3 Scratches

A crack in the ceramic tile

Scratches can occur when drilling ceramics, especially when the drill bit slides across the surface. Use tape as described above.

5.4 Repair indentation

If you drilled too deep into the ceramic, the drill hole may need to be repaired. You can usually use a filler such as color-matched grout.

6. The degrees of hardness of ceramics

Hardness table according to MOHS which determines the ceramic hardness

Ceramics come in different degrees of hardness, from soft to very hard.

The harder the ceramic, the more difficult it can be to drill.

The same applies to the thickness of, for example, ceramic plates.

Good to know: The degree of hardness of materials is determined according to the degree of scratching from 1 - 10 (diamond).

6.1 Soft ceramic

Soft ceramic is relatively easy to drill, but you still need to be careful to avoid cracking and breaking.

Again, use an appropriate drill and moderate speed.

6.2 Medium hard ceramic

Medium-hard ceramics require a little more care when drilling.

It is important to use the correct speed and pressure to avoid damage.

6.3 Very hard ceramic

Very hard ceramics, such as porcelain stoneware, can be particularly difficult to drill.

This particular material requires a diamond bur, and a slow, careful drilling technique.

7. Practical Applications

Ceramics are used in many areas of our lives, from kitchen tiles to bathroom accessories.

7.1 Ceramics in the kitchen

There will be a backsplash in the ceramic kitchen

In the kitchen we often find ceramic tiles on the walls and floors. They are durable, easy to clean and can last for many years.

Sometimes we need to drill holes in these tiles to attach things like shelves, hooks or other kitchen accessories.

7.2 Ceramics in the bathroom

Ceramics laid on the floor in the bathroom

In the bathroom we often find ceramics in the form of tiles, sinks and even bathtubs.

As in the kitchen, sometimes we need to drill holes in these elements to attach things like towel rails, mirrors or other bathroom accessories.

Due to the greatest variance in the required drill hole diameter, a drill bit for tiles is also an option here, which allows you to drill large holes in tiles instead of cutting them.

8. Conclusion - Ceramics can easily be drilled by yourself

Drilling ceramics can be challenging, but with the right tools, techniques, and a little patience, it's definitely doable. It doesn't matter if you're a handyman or a professional.

Pay attention:

  • Using the correct technique depending on the drill
  • Choosing the right ceramic drill according to the hardness of the material
  • Use a machine you are most comfortable with.

9. FAQs - The most common customer questions when it comes to drilling ceramics

1. Which drill and machine are the best for ceramics?

A diamond drill is best for hard ceramics such as porcelain stoneware. A carbide drill may be sufficient for softer ceramics.

2. How can I avoid cracks when drilling ceramic?

Cracks can be avoided by drilling slowly and carefully, using the correct speed and pressure, and possibly pre-drilling.

3. Can I drill a hole in a glazed pottery?

Yes, you can drill a hole in glazed pottery, but you have to be careful not to damage the glaze. A diamond drill for tiles and a slow drilling speed are recommended here.
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    Jürgen Kleis

    "With my many years of experience in the tool industry, I can give you helpful tips and tricks for DIY and handicrafts".

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